(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "My Country And My People"

WOMAN'S  LIFE                    159

of his girls with bound feet was made to dance with light tiptoe
steps on a golden lily six feet high, hung all over with jewels
and pearls and golden threads. Thereafter, the fashion was set
and imitated by the public, and the bound feet were euphuis-
tically called "golden lilies" or "fragrant lilies," which enabled
them to pass into poetry. The word "fragrant" is significant,
for it suggests the voluptuous atmosphere of the rich Chinese,
whose chambers were filled with rare and fine perfume on
which whole volumes have been written.

That women were not only willing but actually glad to be
fashionable and d la mode at the expense of bodily comfort is
nothing peculiarly Chinese. As late as 1824, English girls were
willing to lie on the floor while their mothers by foot and hand
were helping to squeeze their bodies inside the whale-bones.1
These whale-bones must have greatly assisted the eighteenth-
century and early nineteenth-century European women in
fainting at the proper moment. Women may be frail in China,
but it has never been the fashion to faint. The tiptoe dancing
of the Russian ballet is but another example of the beauty of
human torture which may be honoured with the name of an
art.

The small feet of Chinese women are not only pleasing in
men's eyes but in a strange and subtle way they influence the
whole carriage and walking gait of the women, throwing the
hips backward, somewhat like the modern high-heeled shoes,
and effecting an extremely gingerly gait, the body "shimmy-
ing" all over and ready to fall at the slightest touch. Looking
at a woman with bound feet walking is like looking at a rope-
dancer, tantalizing to the highest degree. The bound foot is
indeed the highest sophistication of the Chinese sensual
imagination.

Then, entirely apart from the feminine gait, men had come
to worship and play with and admire and sing about the small
feet as a love-fetish. From now on, night shoes were to occupy
an important place in all sensual poetry. The cult of the
"golden lily" belonged undoubtedly to the realm of sexual

1A fashion journal of the time says: "When lacing the new stays, the young
lady should He face downwards on her bedroom floor, and her mother should
place her foot in the small of her daughter's back in order to obtain good
purchase. There should be then no difficulty in making the stays meet."